Media mogul Joanna Coles explains why your friends are more important than bosses or mentors

Joanna colesFrederick M. Brown/Getty‘Do not be an a–hole,’ says Joanna Coles, pictured.

Joanna Coles’ best tip for life is simple: “Do not be an a–hole.”

Coles is the first chief content officer of Hearst Magazines, a Snap board member, and the former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire magazines. On an episode of Business Insider’s “Success! How I Did It” podcast, Coles shared with Business Insider US editor-in-chief Alyson Shontell her advice for building a powerful network that will help you in your career.

“People know when you’re being an a–hole, and you know it, too,” Coles told Shontell. “And if you are one, people will avoid you, and they will do their best to bring you down, and I’ve seen that play out across the workplace, actually, so you kind of know that’s true.”

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Specifically, Coles said, you don’t want to act that way toward friends and colleagues. Here’s Coles:

“The thing that I always try and say to young people starting out is your peer group is really the most important influence on your life because you are going to rise and fall together. And I have always got jobs through the loose ties of friendships and someone knowing someone who might know a job. And, you know, a group of you will start out together, and they sort of pull you with them.

“And in fact, we now know there’s lots of evidence that when you’re hiring someone you often hire one person, and then if they like it, they bring, over the course of perhaps the next year, five or six people with them because they’re the person reaching back into the orphanage, as it were, and pulling other people over the wall.”

Research backs up Coles’ observation: A recent Glassdoor report found that job interviews from employee referrals are between 2.2% and 6.6% more likely to lead to an accepted job offer.

That said, networking in and of itself isn’t enough to build a successful career. As Wharton psychologist Adam Grant pointed out in a New York Times op-ed, hard work generally helps you build connections more than empty schmoozing does. Your best bet is probably to combine relationship building and good old hustle.

Coles said you should always be asking yourself some questions about your peer group:

“Who’s good? What are they doing? Who are the people that are getting ahead of you? Why are they doing it? What are they doing that you’re not doing? And you know, it’s pretty straightforward: Don’t be an a–hole.”

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